tv Martin Bashir MSNBC December 13, 2012 1:00pm-2:00pm PST
the aftermath of the september 11th attack in benghazi. in the letter ambassador rice also expresses her gratitude for the president's confidence and support and assures that she will remain as ambassador at the unions. let's get to our panel. with me in new york is jonathan alter, who is with bloomberg view, and professor michael eric die sorn ayson and ari melber w nation." >> i think this is the sad resolution of what amounted to a right wing witch hunt against ambassador susan rice. i think, first of all, wrongly laying responsibility for the fiasco at her feet. secondly, when facts subsequently came out to suggest that she was marrily repeated what she had been told in terms of intelligence, they were still unrelenting, and then thirdly what this does is displace a highly qualified person for
secretary of state from the obama administration who happens to be a person of color and a woman. a rhodes scholar, a doctoral recipient from oxford university, an extraordinary broad career at the state department so to speak in terms of foreign relations and the like. this is a sad day in american politics. she didn't get a hearing. she was vetted informally and, therefore, rejected outside of the parameters of legal and formal power, and as a rul of that, i think this is a witch hunt in the worst fashion that it could ever be. >> before we talk to jonathan alter and ari melber, let's bring in chuck todd who is at the white house. chuck, has there been some reaction from the president responding to ambassador rice's letter? >> reporter: well, there has. he accepted this decision by her, and this had been -- he had been -- this had been weighing on him, this issue of the idea
of watching what he believed and you talked to folks that are close to him that susan rice was essentially being bullied a little bit, being attacked by some senate republicans, unfatherly u unfairly he thought. he made that clear at that press conferen conference. one of the things we forget is there some thought that there is a difference between the two of them as far as foreign policy philosophy. susan rice very much in more of the hawkish camp. she was along with hillary clinton one of the two people that really sort of pushed the national security team to be more aggressive on the libya front during the decision to have the -- to create that no-fly zone. john kerry has a history of being a little more dovish, if you will, voting against a lot of interventions.
so how much of an intervention would she be, there was actually a philosophical issue, if you will. i think on paper, the president likes both of them. knows it's important to john kerry and believes john kerry earned the right to be secretary of state, more than fully qualified, but i think in his heart of hearts, his heart was telling him susan rice but he was getting political advice ha said, is this a fight worth having? you've got a lot of fights you're going to have on capitol hill in the next six to nine months, including the one you're in the middle ever now. is this one worth it? >> but, chuck, this woman was highly qualified. she's a rhodes scholar. she has a ph.d. from oxford in international relations. she's been a fellow of the brookings instant. she's been assistant secretary of state for african affairs. ambassador to the united nations. she's amply qualified yet so much of the criticism seemed to suggest she was not and that was dressed up under the guise of
these attacks following what happened in benghazi, was it not? >> reporter: i think -- and this is something i think we in the collective media and i don't know how to define that anymore these days -- >> well, you're in the center of it, chuck. >> reporter: well, that's what they tell me. it's interesting, susan rice, because she doesn't have her oun consulting team around her, doesn't have a full pr team, was more susceptible to this type of where one story where she could become the victim of these attacks very quickly, it could take hold. you look at our nbc/"wall street journal" polling, she was measuring a net negative. 69% of the country knew who she was which is frankly unheard of for a cabinet level position like u.n. ambassador. it was all driven in many cases by some conservative outlets who were making her the center of the benghazi story when there were legitimate questions to ask about the benghazi story, but
the idea that she belonged in the center of those attacks never made a lot of sense. she sort of became a victim of this. i think it's too easy now in the way our media whirl ee eed -- w is set up, you can become collateral damage in a hurry, whether it's twitter, advocacy journalism, talk road, aadio, a that's what she was. she became political collateral damage and that's something we've got a little introspection. >> i get that and i understand the adversarial nature of the media. in her own letter she says series someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartis bipartisanship and as someone who served the u.s. in two u.s. administrations, i'm saddened we've reached this point. even before you have decided upon whom to nominate.
she's tuck beialking about the conflicts that you placed in the media, she says it's happening politically. >> i think she's right and i'm not going to sit here and say which comes first, but there is advocacy journalism or media -- jumpism is n journalism is not the right word. i think potentially overly reactive to it and that has consequences like what we saw i think with susan rice. >> chuck, thanks so much. john alter is here with me, including professor michael eric dyson and ari melber. john, she was bullied, wasn't she? >> she was bullied, but we shouldn't pretend that just because this was, you know, an irresponsible level of opposition that it's somehow unprecedented in american history. there are many examples going back over many administrations
of nominees, sometimes after the point at which the president has named them, who for whatever reason were not politically acceptable to the u.s. senate, and they do constitutionally have the right to advise and consent on nominations. so they do have a constitutional role here to play, and whether they think she was the right choice for secretary of state is relevant. i'm not saying that to defend them driving her out of this consideration. i think it was shameless. i think to blame her for benghazi was ridiculous. but we should understand this in a context. this is not something that just started with fox news. there are many such nominees who have foundered in the past. >> yes, indeed. ari melber, what's your reaction to this decision? do you think that she, herself, is the product of a witch hunt that, frankly, has proved successful for republicans? >> well, clearly it's successful for those republicans who without the strength of the majority sought to prevent her from ever getting a hearing or
being nominated. so pick up on what chief white house correspondent and anchor chuck todd said, i agree that part of the problem here is that she is up at the u.n., which is typically an apolitical position. we all agree that should be the case. she has about 150 staff there. so really people forget and democratic administrations which actually have the u.n. ambassador in the cabinet is a position of second among equals. cabinet officials like defense and state have thousands of employees, and that unfortunately plays a part. because she was significantly outgunned politically. she was also in a bind because she wasn't supposed to return fire given her current role. the other big point, and i think this is easy to forget, is we're not talking about whether a majority of the senate opposed her. mr. alter's comments are directly on point because there is that authority under the constitution. >> right. >> but i don't think anyone who has followed this would say there was anything close to 51
senators who opposed her playing a foreign policy role in this administration. what i counted, and i have done some reporting on this issue, was about six senators who said they were considering filibustering her, maybe several more who didn't like some of her positions and wanted to get into the details 6 some of her statements about libya. but we have to be very clear when when he look at these kind of standoffs and we look at the way washington works that we in the press and many in the political class fall into the habit of talking about what a small minority does as if it's the majority. i don't mean to go on too long -- >> but you are so pause a minute, ari. >> i think it's an important -- >> of course it is. >> it's not a question of 51 votes. it never has been in the united states senate long before all of these filibuster issues and things. if you lose a certain set -- number of senators, not 51, but if you're starting to wobble with people like susan collins, who is a moderate republican,
and your support is cratering even among a relatively small group of senators, your nomination becomes politically untenable. and what susan rice's spokesman just told me was she started to think this was a distraction, a political distraction, and presidents have to worry about that. she obviously has a high regard for her friend, the president, and she didn't want to be a distraction to him. so, you know, it's unfortunate that this happened, but we shouldn't assume that it's the product of totally unusual circumstances. >> i'm not talking about whether -- but i'm not talking about whether it's unusual or not but whether it's democratic. skt john ashcroft if you can get through the senate on a narrow vote. >> you must have political support to be confirmed. >> you rest your voice for two seconds. i was listening to the interview that brian williams has been conducting with ambassador susan rice, and she said that she was
not expecting to do that original interview on "meet the press" when she was sent out to defend the administration. she did so because the secretary of state, hillary clinton, had had such a grueling week that she was asked and she was willing to do it. it was her willingness to serve the administration that's resulted in the witch hunt that occurred immediately after. >> it's full of ironies if not paradoxes. she was the second in command or at least in seniority after hillary clinton, the second senior person. it made sense for her to go forward. she goes forward to defend them and this rebounds negatively on her. while we know that mr. alter is absolutely right in terms of the democratic process and ari melber is absolutely right in terms of what the consequence will be, the reality is that, yes, there's a historical precedent for that, but it has even more significance now because it attacks a woman of such pedigree when the question is not only her qualifications as per se who she is, but we
know collectively what's going on here. we don't want to name what this is. we try to pretend we're being kind here, but we know she's one of the highest ranking african-american people here and a female. the assault upon her intelligence stands apart from any consideration of race or gender but when you throw race and gender in, the consideration of intelligence becomes even more acutely, you know, resonant here. i think we have to acknowledge that and her willingness to serve the country and withdraw mer nomination suggests she truly is about the broader sense of democracy and serving the greater good. >> she's said throughout she's spent her life as a public servant and in withdrawing her candidacy she's acting the same way. >> it's still a shame. >> correspondent mike viqueira is on capitol hill. i imagine you're listening to the popping of champagne corks coming out of senator john mccain's office and lindsey graham. is that what's happening there? >> reporter: there's some belief already that you see that there's a scalp that was thrown their way. >> no, you surprise me.
they're not celebrating a scalp are they? >> if the question is will they satisfy the opponents of susan rice whether they be john mccain or lindsey graham or other senators who have spoken out against her, i doubt it. we live in a age when if there's a fight to be had, a fight will be had. there is always political advantage being sought here, and i don't think this is going to mean anything in terms of a softening of the president's -- or opposition to the president's agenda or other appointments that might come down the line. speaking of which, one of the odder by-products of this entire episodes as it has dragged on is the republican endorsement of john kerry for that job. we've heard an endless stream of republicans come forth and endorse john kerry. as a matter of fact, i just saw john kerry coming out of a briefing on, guess what? a closed briefing from the dni, james clapper, on benghazi. senators were being presented with new photographic and video evidence that chronicled what happened that night, september 11th, of course, the night of the attack that claimed the life
of ambassador chris stevens and others. john kerry did not stop. there's no medimmediat -- anoth scrum waiting to see what his reaction might be. i think the red flag that was raised here and talking about what chuck was talking about, having seen that cabinet meeting last week or was it the week before, martin, when president obama led a round of applause and gave a hearty endorsement to susan rice as she sat at the end of the cabinet room. i don't think there was any secret that this was very visceral for the president. any evidence you need of that privately or publicly you can look at his reaction in that post election press conference when he essentially said come after me if you're going to come after susan rice. but one of the red flags and this was mentioned earlier is when after one of those closed door briefings that we have here in the senate, susan collins,
the very moderate senator from maine emerged to express her own reservations. she said she wouldn't put a hold or filibuster the nomination, i think that raised a red flag. and finally, dick durbin just said on sunday on "meet the press" he thought she could be confirmed if a vote came to that. obviously, we're not going to see whether durbin's prediction will come true. >> to the point you raised earlier and professor dyson just raised, professor dyson said we don't want to name it, but we have seen the attorney general eric holder pursued by republicans, and he's actually the subject of litigation now, and now what do we find but susan rice pursued in the way that she has been by senator john mccain and others. is there a theme here? >> reporter: i'm not going to go that far, martin. i think we live in such a partisan time that when you give someone an opportunity on the other side, a toehold, if you will, to wage this kind of fight in such a high-profile
nomination, i think they're going to be taken. i have been back here on the senate for all of two days and i have witnessed a lot of farewell addresses on the senate floor. >> wherever you are there's trouble. >> and they all have one thing in common. they are lamenting the ideological straitjackets and partisan nature of what's going on here. >> let me say it for you. the reality is that, yes, all of that stuff that mike viqueira said is absolutely true. this stuff is independent of any kind of racial or even gender consideration. this is the nasty politics that we have become heir, too. but eric holder, barack obama, susan rice. what do they have in common? they're highly intelligent african-american people who did it the way america said they want it to be done. they've been well-educated. not that other well educated people have not been subjected to vicious recriminations, but there's a resonant theme here about highly intelligent black
people and some unconscious refusal to acknowledge their legitimacy. i mean, the questioning of especially president obama's intelligence and susan rice's intelligence resonates very powerfully here and as jonathan halter did, i could give you history after history after history of the cases in which african-american people of prominence have been questioned, brought to the bar of public concern as to the legitimacy of their intelligence and yet all along proving they are more than superior to those who oppose them. >> wasn't the problem here additionally made more difficult after david petraeus went before the committee and said, terrorism was involved and appeared to contradict what susan rice had said, and at that point her position became more difficult, didn't it? >> and unten beableuntenable. >> it was difficult all along. and there was a good chance all along that john kerry, who on paper is more qualified than susan rice to be secretary of
state, that he would eventually -- >> that could be argued. >> on paper. look at it in terms of the breadth of experience in foreign policy over many years. that's not to say she's unqualified. she's tremendous qualified herself, just on paper he is more qualified. there was always a chance going back more than a month that the president would move in that direction toward kerry so as to avoid a distracting senate fight, a fight that he probably could have won, probably could have gotten the 51 votes, but it might have been a bit of a parrot victory if he got her confirmed at what political cost -- >> it sounds like a victory -- if you get her confirmed, that's a victory. that's the goal -- i don't understand -- >> it's only a victory -- >> look -- >> it's only a victory if there's not a lot of other damage. >> here is the point, too. the guys who are in control of handing out the credentials, what experiences you get, then indict you for not having them
when they have blocked you from achieving them. that's very interesting to me and that's not something to be easily dismissed because that's been the whole history of accepting people who have been historically closed out. that's why it makes a difference that all the females in the senate are not black. so that the female senators who are in the united states senate are there because of the virtue of some kind of affirmative action that they receive on the gendered end that they deny on the racial end. that's a nasty conundrum that america doesn't want to address. >> it puts us in a corner. ari, you wanted to interlude. >> i will interlude if you have a back up beat. i see mr. alter and i have a good faith disagreement. when you nominate someone for the job, if they get the job, the job of nominating them is done. that is victory. and republicans don't tend in washington to have these same issues about trying to figure out how to get their people in. they push hard. that's why i mentioned mr. ashcroft earlier. if you get in and get confirmed, then you're there to do the job. the other point i wanted to make
is ambassador rice is not going anywhere. she remains in government. she was unfortunate for many of the reasons we've discussed today, but she remains a part of the cabinet and part of the president's foreign policy team and he emphasized that today. so while we have work to do here to figure out why this system doesn't work and why, as i said, majorities don't always rule in congress and the public doesn't always rule, we should also be careful to keep in mind that there are many qualified people including my former boss senator kerry and ambassador rice maintains her position as u.n. ambassador so that's also important. she's not going anywhere just yet. >> i hate to evoke spike lee, he goes in school days and says how come no pitchers or brothers on the wall. we know she's going to be in the cabinet but we're talking about the big plums. we're talking about the big jobs. >> michael, look, condi rice was secretary of state. >> absolutely. >> hillary clinton was secretary of state. she would have been the third woman in a row. >> absolutely. >> but if you can count them,
you're proving my point. but if you can count them you're proving my point. >> pause for a second. end of round one. we'll be back in a moment. ari bell mer, jonathan alter, professor michael eric dyson. susan price sits down with brian williams for rock center tonight at 10:00 p.m. on nbc. stay with us. we'll have much more. ♪ it's so important to make someone happy ♪ when you give a child a toy, it has to work. ♪ make just one someone happy
and all in real time. which makes it just like having your own trading floor, right at your fingertips. [ rodger ] at scottrade, seven dollar trades are just the start. try our easy-to-use scottrader streaming quotes. it's another reason more investors are saying... [ all ] i'm with scottrade. there are major developments this hour in washington. u.n. ambassador susan rice has withdrawn her name for consideration for the secretary of state position convinced that the political handling in a political confirmation would only get in the way. reaction is pouring in. let's welcome in joy reid of the grio and also here with me in new york and dana milbank of "the washington post." if i can begin with you, joy, i want to read what the president has said in reaction. while i deeply regret the unfair
and misleading attacks on susan rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character and an admirable commitment to rise move the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. what's your reaction to this decision? >> well, i think the reaction to the fact that she had to make it is disgraceful, quite frankly, distasteful in the extreme. i think john mccain and a small cad ri of his hangers on in the senate decided to make war on the president's nominee. make war on the principle that the president of the united states duly elected has the right to choose his own cabinet. >> the president had not even mentioned that she was -- >> but knowing he wanted her was enough for john mccain who i believe a lot of this is all personal pique. he has wanted to defeat barack obama at something, anything. hasn't been able to do it. couldn't beat him for the presidency, and he just set about bullying this woman, and i think she, and i think the president's statement is dead on, she's a good enough soldier,
if we can put it that way, to say, you know what? rather than put the president and put the country through the ridiculous drama of arguing over what she said on "meet the press" about an event to which she had no supervisory authority, rather than put the country through that and rather than subject the president to that, she decided to step away and walk away from it, so i think it's admirable the way that she has handled it. but i think the fact she had to deal with it is disgusting to add another "d" word to my list. >> are you not persuaded though that things began to rock after david petraeus appeared before that committee privately and suggested that, yes, terrorism was at work, this wasn't a spontaneous reaction to a video. at that point did her position not become more and more difficult because what she said on "meet the press" was now buted again what general petraeus was saying. >> i don't know what he said markedly changed what we knew. we knew in the initial hours after the event, there was
knowledge within the administration at some level, particularly at the cia level, there was terrorism related to the attack, but the declassified talking points she was given to go on "meet the press" were softer and really focused on the video. so like any public official, including john mccain by the way, when they go on "meet the press" or the sunday talk shows, they work from a set of talking points. are they saying she should have given the classified version? i would think not. i think john mccain would have attacked her regardless. but i think her position has become more and more untenable as time has dragged on. >> dana, you said professor rice has amassed a fairly long enemies list. northwestern senat who is on that list and how did she make so many enemies? >> i think that's what's at play here. if this president wanted to nominate her, he could have gotten her confirmed.
it was always a question of how much political capital did he want to spend on this. did he want to have this protracted battle that would take attention away from the fiscal cliff debate, the economic debate where he's clobbering the republicans and put it in some other area where he's not necessarily as strong? now, in terms of the enemies, i think what it was is certainly you have people with the knifes out like john mccain and lindsey graham but just as tellingly, you didn't have a lot of democrats ready to go to the mattresses for her. so, yes, they could have gotten her through, but it's not a fight a lot of the democrats were relishing having. i think it had very little to do with benghazi and i think as joy pointed out, it had a lot to do with pique, and john mccain's pique at the way susan rice treated him during the 2008 campaign. >> dana, this critique of ambassador rice having sharp elbows, i have heard that, frankly, as a sexist slur by men very often who make that kind of
critique because they don't like the fact that a woman has to work ten times as hard to get into a position of seniority. you know, so all this talk of her having sharp elbows, did she really? are we able to produce evidence of people who come forward and say they were the victims of being smacked in the ribs by susan rice? >> this large volume of complaints and is it because she's a woman? is it because she's african-american? >> i'm afraid -- you're back with us, dana. we lost your signal just then. so would you please begin again with what you were saying so i can follow you at least. >> it was all convincing. i don't know that i need to repeat it. >> but i would like you to for the benefit of our audience. we've lost you again. okay. that was great. what's your reaction to what i was just putting to dana? there has been this critique of susan rice as having been overly aggressive in some way, but that often strikes me as a typically
sexist reaction by men who don't like women who are successful, frankly. >> remember before hillary clinton was the most beloved woman on the planet, she was an ogre for saying things that didn't sound lady like to people about cookies and such. there is a different standard for women and how they are to behave. i think for her there is that but there is a list of people she's given sharp elbows to. it's a list of one. it's john mccain. during the campaign she criticized his irresponsible statements about iran, the singing about bomb bomb iran. she characterized him a reckless individual who shouldn't be president. that was during the campaign. and a lot of the anger i would guess of john mccain towards susan rice has to do not so much with her being a woman, but with her being not deferential to john mccain. >> now, we've had a statement from senator lindsey graham. i'll read you it. i respect ambassador rice's decision. president obama has many talented people to choose from to serve as our next secretary of state. when it comes to benghazi, i'm
determined to find out what happened before, during, and after the attack. unfortunately the white house and other agencies are stonewalling when it comes to providing the relevant information. i find this unacceptable. so originally the complaint was against her, now it's the white house. >> and they have been trying to turn benghazi in a scandal from the beginning. they're still hanging onto it as a sort of scandal. they refuse to go where the scandal would naturally lead. that would be called the central intelligence agency where their favorite person on earth before he had a scandal david petraeus was running things. the congress also doesn't like to go to their own actions in terms of not funding extra security for our bases around the world, i mean for our diplomatic -- >> because the republicans refuse to grant the amount in the budget that was require and that meant a reduction of 300 in protective personnel. >> there are things they could look into and they don't want to. >> why not? >> it's not as juzy a scandal -- lindsey graham has his own political problems.
he is always vulnerable from the right. he's going to follow john mccain to the right and try to turn it into a faux scandal. >> dana, i believe we have you back electronically and digit digitally. we never saw hillary clinton put her full support behind ambassador rice. does this suggest that there might be something of an issue between those two individuals? >> well, there certainly was back in the 2008 campaign where susan rice was really mocking hillary clinton as a candidate suggesting that, you know, she's not qualified being the wife of a president doesn't qualify you to have a foreign policy and become the president on that basis. you know, her people will certainly say for the record that they have no animus now and they're all for it, and you asked earlier about sort of this list of enemies. it's not the sort of situation where you have people coming out before the cameras saying, this woman is intolerable. the amount of chatter, however, that i have heard, i don't know her.
this isn't -- this is not a personal thing, but it is extraordinary the amount of people who have complaints about her in this town. that's why it led me to believe that it was a story to write. it wasn't -- i don't think it was just because she's a woman, because she's african-american. there was just an extraordinary amount of antagonism that has been built up. i think that's what's behind this. the mccain thing, lindsey graham, that is an unreasonable attack on the benghazi thing but i think what the real cause of this was not that, but the unwillingness by some democrats to really go to the mat interest he is -- mattresses for her. >> even if the cause of the attack is not her race or gender, the optics could not be worse for the republican party. here you have john mccain and lindsey graham and their little crew constantly beating up on this african-american woman who can hold her own and doesn't need those things to give her cover, but they are going after her when she was not the
principal entity that was in charge of what happened or that was responsible for what happened in that tragic occurrence in benghazi. so they're going after just her, not the cia director, david petraeus. her. and i think that that's says a lot. >> thank you so much. next, speaker john boehner set to visit the white house within the hour on this busy day. stay with us. [ male announcer ] this is sheldon, whose long dy setting up the news
starts with arthritis pain and a choice. take tylenol or take aleve, the #1 recommended pain reliever by orthopedic doctors. just two aleve can keep pain away all day. back to the news. an extremely busy day in washington. the president and john boehner are due to meet at the top of the hour for urgent talks on the fiscal cliff. and with 12 days to christmas, boehner has had his 12 drummers drumming to the beat of spending is the problem. boehner started the day with a chart prepared by drummer boy paul ryan and after taking the serious step of launching a twitter hash tag, he declared that the president is not serious about the debt.
>> here we are at the 11th hour and the president still isn't serious about dealing with this issue right here. it's this issue, spending. >> are you feeling the christmas spirit yet? well, despite the strife, the president's kept his holiday cheer. >> how are you feeling about a deal? optimistic? >> it's a work in progress. >> speaker boehner says he's waiting to hear more from you, sir. >> merry christmas. >> we sure hope so, mr. president. let's see what can be done about it. let's bring in our panel here in new york. ken vogel, chief investigative reporter for politico and william cohen author of "money and power." and nbc's mike viqueira. mike, you are there on the hill for us. you have a ringside seat, a fresh round at 5:00. what are the oddsmakers saying on the hill. >> i think there's a slightly better odds than there were this morning, which is to say none to
nil. >> right. >> reporter: i will say this, i don't think all is lost. i don't think anybody is going to throw in the towel on this thing. there may be some wiggle room but there's also the possibility that we do go over the cliff on january 1st. here is the threshold question, i'm going to break this down as easily and simply as i can. >> you are aware i am dumb, so thank you. >> would john boehner, a republican speaker of the house, would any speaker of the house, put something on the floor that goes against dearly held party doctrine? in other words raising taxes, and not get a majority of the majority and rely on the opposition party to do it? it almost never happens and i cannot envision it happening on this time. however, are there enough republicans to go along, a majority of the republican conference in the house that's roughly 235 at this point in total, are there enough to go -- or are there enough to make a majority to vote in favor of some tax hike on the wealthy,
somewhere in between, if they get enough of a commitment from the president on cutting spending and particularly addressing entitlements? it doesn't seem like there's reason for optimism at this point. dick durbin, the number two democrat in the senate said this morning raising the eligibility age for medicare is completely off the table now. he's been told that by the white house. 72 members of the democratic caucus on the house side, virtually all of them on the left, as well as the leader there, nancy pelosi, have also said today, this very day, they're going to take it off the table. the question becomes then what does the president have to offer republicans in order to entice them? i don't think there's much if there's not entitlement reform there. they're going up and speaking again, the second time this week. they had their first one-on-one meeting since the election on sunday night at the white house. all of this happening very hush, hush off camera. we can expect a similar approach today. that alone may be some reason for optimism. but we're all reading the tea
leaves and the body language. we're talking to a lot of folks who have a lot of educated guesses about how this is going to end up, but nobody really knows for sure, i got to tell you. >> ken vogel, we don't expect original thinking from political leaders every day, but for john boehner to drag out one of paul ryan's charts struck me as if i was wanting to relitigate the presidential election today. >> and it's interesting because boehner has this balance where he is trying to bring along his conference even as he is -- has the speaker election coming up -- >> on january 3rd. >> on january 3rd, and he has resistance and we have seen him struggle to deal with some of the more strong-willed, shall we put it, ideological members of his conference. he appears to be trying to appeal to them. paul ryan is very popular with those members. he is not however riding a surge of popularity after the presidential election. >> no, he is not. >> so there is definitely a risk here. and polls show that president obama has the upper hand here.
you know, voters trust him more to handle the situation. if voters don't trust congress as much and even more when you break it down, there is more distrust of republicans and they do stand the risk of being blamed here for -- if this goes awry because john boehner is trying to walk this tightrope between his caucus and striking a deal. >> to ken's point, our new poll shows americans believe the president was elected with a mandate to raise taxes on earnings above $250,000, to reduce the deficit with a balanced approach, to eliminate the bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and to implement his health care law. all of those, bill. so why are republicans behaving as if they have the mandate in these circumstances? >> martin, it makes absolutely no sense. unless it's a colossal head fake by the speaker of the house zwroosh i don't think it is then. >> then it's the worst negotiating skills i have ever seen in a congressional leader because if he doesn't reach a deal with the president, if he
isn't able to bring his caucus along, we are going to go over the cliff. i'm starting to get into the howard dean camp i must say. let's go over the cliff because that's the only tactic that makes sense to me now because that way the republicans can come back after the first of the year and act like they are lowering taxes on the middle class and not act as though they have to raise them. >> bill, last week he were telling me that the head of the imf christine lagarde has been repeatedly warning the congress to get this deal done so we don't go over the cliff. what are you saying now? >> everybody is saying we have to get a deal resolved. there's universal feeling among business leaders, ceos throughout the country. >> ben bernanke. >> ben bernanke is taking matters into his own hands to try to right the economy. so it's only boehner and his right wing republican conference which i don't understand the tactic at all. >> okay. mike, the white house said today the republicans haven't budged on the key issue, which is raising rates for the top 2%.
>> right. >> so boehner may say ifs and buts are candy and nuts but where do they find themselves if we go over the cliff knowing that the president argued in the election over this central issue? >> reporter: two things. first of all, you know, i think regardless of what the polls say, this is a question of who looks the worst, not who looks the best. i think both sides in the end if we go over the cliff, if there is this economic catastrophe and i agree with bill, if we go over the cliff, they can come back and pass something retroactively. nothing is certainty point. i don't think anybody really wins in this scenario at all. so i think with regard to -- the one thing you have to keep in mind, you know, the average member of congress is not thinking strategically about the big picture or what lessons are learned from the national election. they're thinking what lessons are learned from their constituencies in whatever red state they come from, each member represents 700,000 americans. they're thinking about, you know, what it is, the politics that gets them elected and it's
a matter of votes. all politics is local. we can take all about how the mandates from the election, what the public clearly wants and the public clearly does not want to see this, this gridlock and bickering as the economy teeters on the edge of economic catastrophe, but you're asking people to vote against their core beliefs, and that is an awful big leap, bad pun, or at least a tough vote they're going to have to take eventually to allow those taxes even on the top 2% to go up. that's what it boils down to. >> mike viqueira, ken vogel, and bill cohen, thank you so much. and we'll be right back.
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he wants to raise revenues, and so very specifically he wants tax rates on the rich to go up. speaker boehner says he wants to cut spending. but then he won't specify the cuts he'd like. why is that? >> he's got a tough negotiating situation. he's got to put on a show for his base and his base ran for spending cuts and for tax cuts. they know revenues are going to go up. speaker ba eer boehner knows th president is going to get his way so he's putting on a show. >> in the new nbc news/"wall street journal" poll when asked if these leaders should compromise to get a deal, 70% of democrats said yes while just 59% of republicans agreed. and now i'd like you to listen to minority leader pelosi today discussing changes to eligibility for medicare, something republicans say should be on the table. take a listen. >> don't even think about
raising the medicare age. we are not throwing america's seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in america. >> i have to ask you, sir, is there a fight over medicare within the democratic party? and is that contributing to the lack of progress in these negotiations? >> no, there isn't. the democratic party supports the president. he's looking for savings in medicare like we have prescription drug price negotiation, that saves $160 billion. what we don't want to do is cost shift or raise the eligibility age. serve on everybody is on a razor's edge. bottom line, this really is a two-person negotiation between the president and speaker boehner. >> but congressman, you'll remember that when speaker boehner and the president were in those grand bargain negotiations, the president is alleged to have mentioned the
possibility of raising the qualifying age. >> that's right. and that caused a great deal of concern among democrats. >> it certainly did, and this week he was asked a question by barbara walters in an interview, and again he didn't slam that down as if that was something he would not consider. so the question to you, sir, is, is your congress in agreement on this or do you think the president would like to go with that and he needs your support? >> no. i don't think he will go with that, and he would need our support. i don't think he'd get it. bottom line, i think what the president is being careful to try to do is not put boehner in an even more difficult position than he's in. so if he's negotiating in the public, it's going to put boehner in a much more difficult situation. so i don't take his categoric -- his unwillingness to be categoric on anything as an endorsement of anything. he did very well in the election, and he was vilified by mitt romney for, quote, cutting
$716 billion from medicare, and the american people figured it out. that was a hoax. there were savings. the insurance companies got less of a rip off profit but all medicare beneficiaries got additional care, free preventative care. we filled up the doughnut hole so they don't get whacked on that. there's some confidence that the president gets the difference between policies that will save money in our health care system, including medicare, versus cost shifting which is essentially what the ryan budget was doing, just putting the cost on the beneficiary. >> congressman peter welch from vermont, as ever, thank you, sir. >> thank you. >> neck, speaker john boehner set to visit the white house any moment on this very busy day, and we will take you there. stay with us. [ male announcer ] this is amy. amy likes to invest in the market. she also likes to ride her bike. she knows the potential for making or losing money can pop up anytime. that's why she trades with the leader in mobile trading. so she's always ready to take action,
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people that i not continue to be considered by the president for nomination as sect of staretarye because i didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting, and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country, and the first several months of a second-term president's agenda is really the opportunity to get the crucial things done. we're talking about comprehensive immigration reform, balanced deficit reduction, job creation, that's what matters, and to the extent that my nomination could have delayed or distracted or deflected or maybe even some of these priorities impossible to achieve, i didn't want that and i'd much prefer to continue doing what i'm doing, which is a job i love at the united nations. >> that was a first look at u.n. ambassador susan rice explaining to my colleague brian williams her decision to withdraw her name from consideration for
secretary of state. the full interview to be broadcast tonight on rock center. let's get to nbc news white house correspondent kristin welker. kristin, i note from the ambassador's letter to the president that she says we cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from a the most pressing issues facing the american people. did that withdrawal come as a surprise to the president? >> reporter: according to my sources here, he was certainly disappointed in the circumstances surrounding her decision to withdraw her name. i have been speaking to senior administration officials about this topic for weeks asking them if president obama's support for susan rice had waned at all under the mounting pressure that she was getting from capitol hill. the criticism she was getting from lawmakers who said she mishandled the benghazi incident and the answer that i always got from senior administration officials here is that president obama continued to support her and to have complete confidence in her, and they say that that
really did continue right through until the very end. they also tell me that this was her decision and hers alone. no one in this administration nudged her to come to this conclusion. that is the information we are getting at this point this time. of course, this is very early on in the process, but the word i'm getting really is that president obama was disappointed really in the circumstances surrounding this. this is something he expressed publicly that he alluded to in the letter. right now i think the main word is disappointment. >> yes, indeed. i would agree having read the president's correspondence as well. kristin, speaker boehner, as you know, is going to be arriving at any moment to meet with the president. we understand he plans to head to ohio this weekend. does that mean that they're closer to an agreement and that something is going to happen tonight or is this a kind of final farewell before we go off the cliff and he goes back to ohio? >> well, both sides are being
incredibly tight-lipped about whether this means they're closer to an agreement. i think what it does signal is they are staying in contact. you will remember that during the payroll tax cut fight, these two leaders really didn't speak very much at all. in fact, there was sort of a freeze between the white house and house speaker john boehner's office. we're seeing really a different tactic this time around. they are in more communication, talking on the phone, meeting face-to-face. so is there a final deal done? if you listen to the comments made today, it certainly signaled that the two sides are still pretty far apart with president obama digging in his heels on increasing taxes on wealthier americans, house speaker john boehner saying president obama's offer is not realistic because it doesn't deal with entitlement reform. late this afternoon we were still digging in their heels. of course, there's a fair amount of political theater going on right now as well, martin, trying to sort of run out the clock so they can look like they really put up a significant fight. but i think that it is an